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I’m midway through the annual Fast for Baha’is—no food or drink from sunrise to sunset for 19 days, ending with the Baha’i new year on the first day of spring.
Every year I learn something different from this experience, and this time I’m thinking about the source of my energy in the absence of food.
The rest of the year, when I need an energy boost I have lots to choose from—sometimes even just a glass of water gives me what I need. But during this Fast, I’ve now realized that in the absence of nutrients my energy comes through my attitude. I am learning to be detached and content. These, in turn, represent the key to something that we might label “spiritual energy” or “happiness.”
What makes a person happy? Well, some people achieve happiness when they work; others when they relax. Some are enriched through music and the arts; others through family gatherings. Some enjoy museums and galleries; others thrive best in nature. Some like to be surrounded by people; others seek solitude.
But at least one source of happiness that most of us share comes from being happy and energized when we have daily purpose. Even people not blessed with pleasant jobs can recognize within their job the opportunity to learn and grow, to strive for excellence, to earn the material means to support themselves. Of course we could spend our days many other ways, but—whatever we do—daily purpose can infuse our thoughts and actions with vigor and energy.
The Baha’i Fast has taught me that service to others brings happiness through purpose. That kind of service, whether on a large or a small scale, alone or with others, planned or spontaneous, gives my life meaning and purpose. I have found that the more spontaneous the better, since selfless, loving service to others comes as such a welcome surprise to others.
Surely love is the universal source of happiness. Despite the word itself having been romanticized to the point of sounding trite or even corny, love warms our hearts and guides our highest deeds. Beyond love for family and friends, it extends to our planet itself and its creatures. Love animates and motivates our purpose.
However and wherever each of us finds our own happiness, that happiness and joy continually draws us to its source, much like a magnetic field. Abdu’l-Baha recognized this tendency:
When a man has found the joy of life in one place, he returns to that same spot to find more joy. When a man has found gold in a mine, he returns again to that mine to dig for more gold.
We know there is a connection between our minds and our bodies. When one of them feels droopy or saddened, then so does the other. To a great extent though, since the mind rules the body, we can willfully overcome this tendency by fueling ourselves with spiritual happiness as a source of energy.
I can’t buy happiness at the grocery store, nor find it in a capsule at the health food store. But if I want to, I can create it for myself—by letting a daily dose of love and purpose energize me.